Why is it always “Lost in Translation?” is the headline? That’s the headline for BBC Scotland sports reporter Jim Spence interview with Dundee United’s new Slovakian goalkeeper, Dusan Pernis. Pernis’ English is pretty basic, and Spences is pretty Scott, and the interview is so funny that it’s become an internet hit.
Things started going south when Pernis couldn’t understand he was being asked to say his name, and despite his warning that he “couldn’t speak English,” the interviewer plowed ahead.
“I just hope I haven’t caused Dusan any embarrassment,” Spence said.
“My Slovakian is non-existent. I think I need to work on my Slovakian as much as Dusan needs to work on his English. And not only has he got to get to grips with English, but also Scots English and Dundee Scots too.”
A BBC Scotland producer published the video with the headline “A reporter should know when to give up,” captioning with a real-time commentary on Spence linguistic torture session of the young goal keeper.
Pretty local. Where was Pernis’ interpreter? It’s the translator that was lost here, a situation of “lost without translation.”
Interesting to compare with global sports franchises, who speak the language of their fans no matter what language the fans speak, (subject of course to marketing realities). The NBA translates their website into simplified Chinese for Mainland hoop fans, it’s a little rough around the edges compared to the English site, but I’ll bet it has what fans are looking for. The NFL translates into partners with Univision for NFLlatino.com, aimed primarily at Spanish speakers in the US, reflecting the North American demographic of American football.
Manchester United, the reigning English champions and Club World Cup holders, are globally one of the best known soccer/football brands in the world. They do their site in Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. No European languages offered here, since Euro fans have their own local teams to cheer on, and Manchester is concentrating these days on building a base in Asia. Barcelona, 2009 champs, offer the same language lineup (minus Korean) behind language specific splash pages.
Around the globe a few sports franchises have broken free of local markets to reach out to fans in many languages. Language management becomes a sub-discipline of sports management.
Journalist Spence gets burnt in the way this story is told, but its Dundee United that has dropped the ball, and missed the 0pportunity to score in Slovakian and English media with this new guy.
But then, if they had gotten it right, it wouldn’t have gone viral, and you wouldn’t have heard about it. Did the puppet masters of Dundee pull strings to put Peris on the spot? Is it a vast, “lost in translation” conspiracy? Hmmm. This could be big, really big.